Music Interviews

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Ronnie Montrose

Interview by Melissa Bennett
published in Artist Magazine, San Francisco

"I'm very much an extremist. I do what I set out to do, but it's all spontaneous, not intentional. I set a goal, accomplish it, and then move on to a new goal.

Ronnie Montrose is an artist who evolves, one who is constantly moving on to new and better things. In the past, he has worked with such people as Edgar Winter and Van Morrison ("Frankenstein"). While playing as "Montrose," he worked with Sammy Hagar; later, he moved on to Gamma and then to a duo with Mitchell Froome. His latest project has been to pursue a solo career.

In a recent telephone interview he talked about his desires and goals today. "I'm very much an extremist. I do what I set out to do, but it's all spontaneous, not intentional. I set a goal, accomplish it, and then move on to a new goal."

His shows in San Jose will be done primarily on a whim. "I'll be doing what I do when I have friends over. I'll be playing the sort of stuff I play to entertain them; it's what I play when I'm having fun."

Aside from these gigs, he will be working on several different projects, as he is the type of person who likes to keep busy all the time. One such project is producing new bands: "I'm producing City Kid, a band from Sacramento, and Physical Ed. I'm also producing and financing Marc Bonilla, a solo guitarist, songwriter and singer. we're working on a one-on-one basis, which is nice. Working on that basis isn't so limiting, leaving more possibilities open."

Commenting on his changeover from the heavy metal genre, he said, "I evolved, not necessarily conscious of my direction. I was immature when I was into heavy metal -- not that heavy metal is immature --- but I was young, and now I've grown and matured. Like I said, I've evolved. I've always enjoyed what I was doing, but each new step seems to get better than the last."

Ronnie has also been inventing equipment dealing with synthesizers and computers to create a new sound. "I've modified existing equipment to create what you'd call a guitarist's view of Tangerine Dream. Like in the shows in San Jose and Sacramento, we'll be having what you'd call an excited assistance 35mm screen projection, lasers, that sort of stuff. We'll also be using a lot less drums and percussion; it'll be a lot spacier. I'll also be unveiling a new instrument." What is it? "You'll just have to wait," he grinned.

I wonder whether the instrumental album Open Fire was an element in his decision to go strictly instrumental. "Not really. I would say it was just a facet of me that I wanted to express." He's also working on a benefit to save the Crest Theatre. "It's a beautiful old theater, and we'd like to do as much as possible to save it from destruction."

This is a busy man, but one who is out to have fun. When he was working with Mitchell Froome, for instance, Froome was living in LA and Montrose was living in the East Bay [of the San Francisco Bay Area]. "It cost so much money and we had so many needs and responsibilities that it began to defeat the whole purpose -- and that was to have fun."

Now, Ronnie Montrose is "strictly solo," just a man and his instrument, not just a single instrument, but several; and he does all the work. He'll be using a Roland Micro-Composer MC4, a tool that is essential to any show he does, for running several synthesizers and working lights all from one pint.

On asking Ronnie if he would like to make a closing comment, he replied quite earnestly, "Welcome to my whim."



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